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Rapid Reloading with Closed Muzzle Guns

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popgun pete

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Jul 30, 2008
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On occasion I have found my shot has not stoned or incapacitated my prey and the barbs or tip have either pulled out or torn out. Not under full helm control the fish is then making best efforts to escape, but lacks coordination or engine power to put a big distance between us. These situations require a quick reload as the fish is often too lively to grab and may be some distance away doing erratic orbits. With a closed muzzle gun I just ram the shaft back into the gun, haul the bands back, throw the shooting line to the side and let fly as the fish either comes into shooting range again or I dive down towards it. You cannot get off such a quick shot with open muzzle guns as you have to string the shooting line first. Nothing worse than having the spear flop off the barrel as you reload an open muzzle gun, unless it is a closed track.

The same quick reload advantage can be had with pneumatics, with no time to string the line you just chuck it aside and let fly, the shot usually killing the fish as not under helm control or power you can shoot it in the noggin. This also incurs less battle damage other than that which the fish has already sustained as a result of the initial hit. Prangers can tear out as you don't have any chance of skewering the fish unless it is a tiddler, or a garfish, flounder or flathead, the latter two being jammed down against the bottom. Single points are fish penetrators, but can still rip out if it was a glancing hit. Using heavy spears means fish often receive incapacitating if not fatal battle damage, much better than hitting them with a knitting needle, unless the fish are on the small side.

Spearfishing videos don't often show such hits, the prey in them often looking not too much worse for the wear, but any spearfishermen knows clean hits are not always the case and despite the best of intentions the fish can look rather secondhand once put out of its misery.
weapons.jpg


The open muzzle Scubapro seen above has a tabbed line slide that fits in a vertical slot in the muzzle, but even that more positive location on the barrel makes it still necessary to string the shooting line when trying to get a quick second shot off. Guns that I have not tried which may be more amenable to quick second shots are magnetic tracks, but I have never used one.
 
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On occasion I have found my shot has not stoned or incapacitated my prey and the barbs or tip have either pulled out or torn out. Not under full helm control the fish is then making best efforts to escape, but lacks coordination or engine power to put a big distance between us. These situations require a quick reload as the fish is often too lively to grab and may be some distance away doing erratic orbits. With a closed muzzle gun I just ram the shaft back into the gun, haul the bands back, throw the shooting line to the side and let fly as the fish either comes into shooting range again or I dive down towards it. You cannot get off such a quick shot with open muzzle guns as you have to string the shooting line first. Nothing worse than having the spear flop off the barrel as you reload an open muzzle gun, unless it is a closed track.
A open muzzle with a magnet on the muzzle is i think a good option if you want a open head and quick reloadability. A magnet placed at the right depth with the right amount of pull on the shaft is easily enough to pull off a quick shot with no shooting line holding shaft. I find the magnet also helps with reloading as it pulls the shaft onto the track when reloading guiding the shaft into the trigger. Cons is even with the magnet sometimes with quick movements the shaft can fall off the track.
 
A open muzzle with a magnet on the muzzle is i think a good option if you want a open head and quick reloadability. A magnet placed at the right depth with the right amount of pull on the shaft is easily enough to pull off a quick shot with no shooting line holding shaft. I find the magnet also helps with reloading as it pulls the shaft onto the track when reloading guiding the shaft into the trigger. Cons is even with the magnet sometimes with quick movements the shaft can fall off the track.
I was actually adding this at the same time as you replied, a lot will depend on the strength of the magnet and the weight of the shaft.
 
Open muzzle guns arose out of the use of tabbed shafts, these being used on early closed track guns even before the Arbalete became the preferred band gun, and its cocking stock equivalent spearguns. Tabbed shafts were being used to eliminate wishbone notches which can weaken a shaft, but as shafts were later being made of better stuff that was not really so important. Another reason for open muzzles was it was an attempt at quick reloading, but the guns that benefited the most from this were open sear box models where you dropped the shaft in from on top, there being no sear box roof. Some of these guns were also spear tail drivers where the wishbones go on the rear butt of the shaft. Some Florida Reef Rifles used this system where extra bands piggybacked on the master wishbone that had to be set first. Very few people have been one of these nowadays, but they had been used in the distant past. Thanks to John Warren and his discussions with Don Peterson I have seen photos of their guns. (May have that name wrong, I need to check it.)

No matter how you put the shaft in it has to have its tail fed under the bands/wishbones or you will shoot the line through the band loop, not underneath it. This stymied attempts with cross cut muzzles where you put the shaft through at an angle and then you straightened it up. The original Champion Cavalero ARC 2000 used this type of muzzle and that was around 1986 vintage from memory. It still used wishbone cut shafts in that muzzle.
Champion ARC 2000 brochure front.jpg
Champion ARC 2000 brochure rear.jpg

This is the brochure that came with the gun, picked it up at a dive show exhibition, never used one of these guns, but handled one at "Snorkel Inn", Sydney, when they had just received one on spec.
 
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A band gun that you could reload by dropping the shaft in without worrying about feeding the shaft tail under the wishbones/bands was the Swimaster Magnum Toploader. This was because the wishbone notches are on the bottom of the shaft, but the bands need to be held back against the barrel when you do it and to facilitate that the wishbones hooked into a band arrestor on the barrel, a metal hook system that could be slid along the barrel tube. The spear shaft was a press fit into the muzzle via an opening on top, but the downside of this novel arrangement was the metal wishbones crashing into that arrestor hook on the barrel. Another toploader gun was the Scubapro, now Bandito Panther, but with them you still have to feed the spear tail under the bands. A problem with the wishbone notches on the bottom of the shaft rather than on top is a tube gun cannot use a plastic guide track stuck onto the barrel tube as the cocked wishbones sit underneath the shaft. Back in the day that was not such a problem as tube guns had no guide tracks, a few exceptions being the Scubapro above and the US Divers Sea Hunter which was famous for its roller sear which acted as the tooth and reciprocated back and forth in its conical tail end sear box. These guns used formed alloy tube barrels that had the guide track pressed into the alloy tubing as it was being made, a more expensive to make barrel rather than just lopping the required length off stock tubing.
Swimaster Magnum Toploader.Rjpg.jpg
 
Another potential toploader was the completely crazy Fer De Lance rollergun from Gary, but actually another In Depth Incorporated gun using the Colt 1911 automatic inspired handle. This gun looked great at a glance, but was an object lesson in design errors, there are over a dozen of them, but the parts were generally well made even if ill considered. Like the other toploader's the wishbone notches are under the shaft, not on top.
Fer De Lance pair business end R.jpg
 
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Rapid reloading just isn't a consideration for me or my dive buddies in Southern California, at least not in terms of getting fish. If a fish gets off it's never seen again in typical visibility, especially in a kelp bed. In the last 25 years I can recall exactly one time when a fish was lost by someone on my boat and then found on the bottom. If I lose a fish, I won't see it again. If I don't lose it, then I'll be back in the boat when I get the shaft back into the mechanism. I envy you diving in conditions where its possible to see a fish after it tears off and spear it again.

I haven't used a gun with a closed muzzle in decades, so for me the choice is enclosed track vs open track. For years
I used hybrids with enclosed track on the wood butt portion, and all I had to do was get the shaft into the track and then it was impossible to miss the trigger mechanism. But now my only three guns have open tracks, and I have to keep the shaft on top of the gun until I get it into the mechanism and that is much harder for me in the water. But unless I miss, I'll be in the boat when I do it so it's not a big deal.
 
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Second reload shots on the same fish are not common, but they happen, especially in a reef canyon complex as the fish only have so many escape options, plus being damaged they have lost their direction control. On one occasion I had a fish doing out of control loops and to my amazement swam right back to me at the surface as if for me to finish it off. Dismissing the thought as a coincidence I obliged, but this time with my knife as it had completely run out of steam, the hit just behind its skull had torn a small chunk out. That is where I stuck my knife, breaking its spine.
 
It's almost beside the point, but I have to elaborate on that one fish I mentioned that was recovered by a diver on my boat after it tore off. Actually he cut it off. We were in a thick kelp bed in water about 55 feet deep and the visibility looked horrible from the boat. There were three of us and two of us didn't even think it was worth getting in the water, but the other guy was visiting from Hawaii and didn't want to miss his chance. So I told him that the best bet was to stay on the surface and hope that a fish swam under him. Diving in those conditions just spooked fish before you could see them. I really didn't have much hope for him but after about a few minutes he popped up and said he was on. The fish wrapped up in kelp only about 15 feet deep so it was going to be an easy retrieval. But trying to cut kelp in the poor vis he cut his mono shooting line by accident. He popped up screaming an obscenity and we thought that was the end of the story, but he said he was going to look for the fish. We wished him luck. He dove to the bottom at 55 feet and the last 5 feet of water was very clear, maybe 30 feet of visibility, and there was his fish laying on the bottom with the shaft in it. We could hardly believe it. We told him he should head for Las Vegas before his luck wore off.
 

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Pete- since you're taking about closed muzzles, maybe you can tell me what that stainless hoop over the muzzle of Riffe guns from years ago was all about. My first Riffe had that, and I couldn't figure out what the point was. It was way too big to hold the shaft down against the gun and loading was like any other open track gun with an open muzzle. If you leaned the gun on something or down against a reef, then the shaft pushed up off the muzzle. Luckily I live just a few miles from the Riffe plant, so when Jay started putting a line wrap pin on the left side of the muzzle so that the shooting line held the shaft down, I took my gun up there and he removed that hoop and put the pin in.

I wish I had a photo of that hoop so everyone could tell what I'm talking about, but I'm sure you do.
 
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That metal hoop is to stop the shaft falling off the gun if you go inverted or the gun is not completely under your control and you are freeshafting. In some places where there are expanses of open bottom a shaft can be relocated relatively easily. Where I dive, and that covers a lot of terrain, a free shaft will be a lost shaft as it disappears into the weedy bottom. Have never found my lost shafts, but have found the long lost shafts of others, purely by chance.
jay riffe undersee based gun.jpg
 
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one of my last shore dives in northland NZ i shot a trevally that was slightly to far but i must have nicked the spine as the fish was unable to swim straight. to my surprise a kingy swam up to have a go at the trev. i had a roller gun at the time and i find with the bridge of a roller gun and the wishbone making a loop makes it easy to locate the shaft onto the track and into the mech, a roller also doesn't have rubber flopping around everywhere so re doing the shooting line is also i find much easier than a conventional gun, and due to the quick reload kingy was on the menu that night.
 
The Ocean Rhino is a speargun made for quick reloading, note the long closed muzzle on the gun, this particular example is the "Windsong" version. Open muzzles have become a thing, sometimes founded on a misunderstanding of what spearfishing is all about. While wishful thinking may see it as target shooting, archery is a far better analogy because our ammo is orders of magnitude heavier than any bullet or pellet. For that reason different rules apply.
ocean rhino muzzle.jpg
 
The Ocean Rhino is made for scuba divers using free shafts in the Gulf of Mexico. They need that closed muzzle for rapid loading of a second shaft before the fish gets away with the first shaft. That's a very specific sort of spearfishing where they want to reload rapidly and string the fish so they can shoot more fish before they run out of air and/or bottom time. It much of the world, including Australia, it would be illegal to spearfish on scuba. I have never seen anyone use a freeshaft in the kelp beds of Southern California or in a thousand feet of water offshore under kelp paddies or in schools of tuna. That's because they don't want to lose shafts. I really don't think all the divers worldwide using open muzzles don't know what spearfishing is all about. They know what works for their locations and conditions.
 
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The Ocean Rhino is made for scuba divers using free shafts in the Gulf of Mexico. They need that closed muzzle for rapid loading of a second shaft before the fish gets away with the first shaft. That's a very specific sort of spearfishing where they want to reload rapidly and string the fish so they can shoot more fish before they run out of air and/or bottom time. It much of the world, including Australia, it would be illegal to spearfish on scuba. I have never seen anyone use a freeshaft in the kelp beds of Southern California or in a thousand feet of water offshore under kelp paddies or in schools of tuna. That's because they don't want to lose shafts. I really don't think all the divers worldwide using open muzzles don't know what spearfishing is all about. They know what works for their locations and conditions.
My last sentence is not about open muzzles, just spearfishing in general. The reference is to sight lines on a gun, some seem to think that they need to look right along the shaft, but as spear shafts are heavy they are falling once they leave the gun. Over shorter distances where the shaft is flying straight, it has little time to fall, then that will be useful, but over any distance shafts fly on a flat parabolic course. When Jack Prodanovich made his first alloy handle guns he put a ring sight on them and the idea was as you look along a gun you are sighting through the speartip. On those guns it worked out at about an intersection point 12 feet out from the tip of the gun. Later on he left the ring sight off as you are generally looking over the hump of the sear box anyway. You can still see the marks where the ring sight used to be on his guns and the actual sight on the Spearfisherman Magnum copy of it.

When you scope in on your gun you automatically work out where your sight line and the spear converges by putting lots of shots through your gun and eventually in point and shoot situations you no longer have to look along the gun as you know how the shaft flies. That is why it is often easy to shoot fish at the same distances, a deja vu shot.

For your info that Ocean Rhino is my gun and I don't spear on scuba.
Prodanovich ring sight.jpg
 
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Here is a diagram which is not drawn to scale. You shot the fish thinking that the shaft flew in a straight line and as you see it from behind the gun that is exactly what it looks like. But an observer side on sees the shaft moving in a curve because divers when shooting don't realize it but the gun tips up slightly as the shaft launches. This of course alters with distance, I have shot fish just over 20 feet out from my band gun, but I tipped the gun up slightly as I know how that gun shoots, With my Black Sea Hydropneumatic I pointed the gun straight at the fish essentially looking through the gun and nailed it without any adjustment because the flight time of the shaft is extremely short leaving the gun at over 40 meters per second. It is not a handy gun to swim with and sinks like a stone if you let it go, so I rarely use it, plus it takes too long to reload.
aiming at distance.jpg

Note that it is possible to shoot upwards as well before ascending if fish come in from above your level to look at you. Fish generally expect attacks from above from non-fish, but it is not uncommon to have fish seemingly unaware of what you are, or how dangerous you can be once they come within range of a certain shot, as distinct from the "Hail Mary" variety..
 
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For your info that Ocean Rhino is my gun and I don't spear on scuba.
View attachment 59529
But you seem to have every gun in the world. Kevin Bruington is (or at least was) a commercial spearfisherman using free shafts on scuba in the in the Gulf of Mexico, so he built a gun optimized for that purpose.
 
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The reason the "Wind Song" timber guns of the Ocean Rhino can float is down to two things, the number of bolts holding the clamshell grip halves together has been significantly reduced and the timber body is of a much larger volume than in the other guns. In fact it is the biggest piece of timber that I have ever seen used in a gun with the usual end cap construction in terms of plastic full grip handle body and front muzzle moulding..

The black finish barrels are also timber with a thick black Rhino coating, but the barrels are of a much smaller cross section and are intended to be sinkers. However these black body guns now also use the reduced bolt count clamshell handles, and as I don't own one I cannot comment on their buoyancy. As a general rule longer guns float because there is that much more timber or hollow tubing that does not flood in the gun's construction. That rule also applies to big tank, rear handle pneumatic spearguns, the longest guns float like corks after the shot.

When Ocean Rhino commenced operations it used the Sea Hornets from Australia which are an end cap construction in both timber and metal tubing barrels. Sea Hornet guns are designed to be floaters. The Commercial Ocean Rhino gun muzzle was a much longer unit somewhat reminiscent of the muzzle on the current Ocean Rhino guns and was fitted to the Sea Hornet stocks. With weighting those guns became sinkers and of course alloy barrels without end plug sealing can be easily made sinkers.

Speaking of Sea Hornet, that Australian company is now in limbo having moved out of its Sydney factory, however a Chinese clone appeared which was of some interest to Kevin as it could have been offered as a cheaper option for beginners. The clone had an alloy barrel extruded in the shapes of the Sea Hornet timber gun barrel. Unfortunately the Chinese stuffed up the spring in the trigger mechanism and after user complaints the guns disappeared. When the lighting improves I will take a photo of one alongside the gun that they copied.
 
Here are the Sea Hornet guns, the clones from China are all black and have the name "Shooter" on them, placed upside down by a factory worker on the longer gun! Sea Hornet guns use closed muzzles and the timber guns had bronze coloured plastic parts whereas their tube guns are in black. There are some exceptions, note the long timber Sea Hornet at the bottom. Not my gun, but purchased on EBay.
Sea Hornets and Chinese clones R.jpg
 
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